Sometimes, when it’s late at night and the whole world is still, you can feel like you’re the only one alive. As you roam around, you can sense the solitude, taste the peace and quiet, and usually, you go to the kitchen for a midnight snack. Okay, so maybe that’s just me, and for some reason, I imagine that those of you who know me aren’t surprised.
Anyway, there I was, getting myself a nice cold drink, when I realized that we didn’t have any cold soda in the fridge. No problem. I opened a fresh bottle, poured it into a glass, and reached into the freezer for a handful of ice cubes. I thought, “HaShem, Thank You for ice!”
Now, maybe you’ve never really given ice much thought, I mean, it just kind of sits there in the freezer waiting for you. If you’ve ever had to fill ice cube trays and try to find a relatively flat space to put them in, you probably have a lot more respect for your automatic icemaker. If not, you think about it only occasionally, when the sound of the cubes falling into the bucket seems like an intruder which the man of the house inevitably has to go check out at two in the morning.
In truth, ice is an amazing thing. It’s the very first “energy water.” It’s got cold stored within it, and it can share that reduced temperature with other things. When you put it in a drink, it slowly melts and cools your drink to a much more enjoyable temperature. In fact, before air conditioning, people used to put a bucket of ice in front of a fan to let the ice cool down the air around it.
Strange such a mundane thing generates such awe, but when you think deeply about it, you realize how much better your life is because of ice. Truth be told, we really could be in awe of everything. In fact, sometimes, I’m just in awe of how much “everything” we have. Often, on my middle-of-the-night treks into the kitchen, I’ll just look around in wonderment at the glasses, the dishes, the appliances, the table and chairs, the cabinets and all the things in them and whisper, “Wow. Thank You, HaShem, for all this STUFF.” I find it overwhelming thinking about how much “stuff” we own—peelers and crock pots and even special little yellow holders for corn on the cob that we only use like two or three times a year! I ask for more stuff, and that we should always be able to have stuff. It becomes an auspicious time for prayer. You see, it’s not a binge when I go into the kitchen all alone, it’s a pilgrimage!
Have you ever cut yourself? I don’t mean badly, I mean just a little slice of the finger, perhaps when you were cutting a piece of frozen brownie at say, 1 a.m., while the whole house was snoozing. Now think about what you did to heal it. Perhaps you put on a “band-aid,” maybe some kind of ointment, but how did you instruct your skin to grow and knit perfectly so the finger looks like the cut never happened?
Of course, you didn’t do anything. It just happened by itself. Your skin cells know how to grow to close the space, rewire the nerve endings, and even put your fingerprints back in order. That’s not a small thing at all, and yet we don’t often hear people saying, “Ribono Shel Olam, thank you for giving my body the wisdom to heal itself; please continue to grant me good health and appreciation for it.”
The more you look at things, and not just look at them, but into them, the more in awe of how blessed we are you will become. R’ Avigdor Miller, z”l, was famous for his discussion of fruit. For example, an orange is bright and attractive. It has a sturdy peel to protect the fruit, yet it can be opened with your fingers. Inside, the peel is white, for there is no need to waste bright color on the part that’s inside and not seen until you’re already halfway to eating it. The fruit is also bright, tasty, and it has delightful juice in it. Inside, there are seeds which contain millions and billions of pieces of data in a biological format that when planted, know how to create wood, roots, bark, leaves, fruit, and more seeds! It’s amazing. If you found a dime when you cut open an orange you’d be surprised, but a seed which is worth so much more we take for granted.
I bet if you took some time to reflect on the world around you, some moment when all is quiet, still, and nobody else is with you, you’d find much more than a midnight snack. I bet you’d find your fill of food for thought. So go ahead and snack away, and while you’re enjoying a bit of nosh with your ice cold soda, take a minute to thank HaShem for the nosh. It will have you saying, “How sweet it is!”
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By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz